*Warning: This blog contains a non-graphic discussion of sexual violence*
FYI the post is 1,600 words,
provides 10 actionable steps you can take, a draft/sample email you can use and
an invitation to a webinar on the subject
I am a 57-year old greying, slightly pudgy, white man.
I was born to a Canadian middle-class family in a time many benefits of life were, if not served to me, were available to me because of gender, income, nationality and race. I worked hard to earn what I have obtained, but I know it was easier achieved because of the endowed privileges that others didn’t have. In short, I have held positions of power and leadership in part because of that ‘privilege’.
As I matured as a leader, I understood that I had disproportional power and influence over the lives of those with whom I worked and led. As I grew as a Boss, I took great offence to intentional and unintended abuses power. I took a hard stand on the predators and an even a harsher view when it came to the people and institutions that protected the predator and revictimized the victims.
I have called the police on & fired predators, warned female coworkers to be cautious around some men, reported harassment and followed up when harassers were given new jobs.
Should I have done more? Absolutely.
What did I think when #MeToo went viral?
First, I ranted against predators, enablers & institutions for their part in these awful acts. Then I quietly and sheepishly began to rack my mind for my own crimes and my sins of omission or commission.
I know that I have not always been a ‘gentleman’ in my personal and dating life and did not always treated women with the respect they deserved. What about the workplace?
I believe – I hope – I pray – that I behaved better. I inherently understood the power differential between my leadership role and the women I led. I understood fairness and equity were essential for me to be the leader I wanted to be.
Did I do everything I could to protect women in the workplace? Not likely.
I know I turned a blind eye to men of rank & privilege ‘dating’ female employees. I didn’t stop disparaging ‘jokes’ or comments about breasts & asses and, to be honest, I sometimes took part.
I know I am far from innocent regarding #MeToo.
For most leaders of my gender & generation it seems easier to weigh in on social-justice issues that would discriminate against gay & transgendered people; denounce right-wing nuts; or, support #BlackLivesMatter and #MurderedandMissingIndigenousWomen.
Yet as the stories of harassment of women across every sector of the economy who were not treated safely or with respect become public, business leaders suddenly struggle with what to say.
Why are Executive Offices Silent?
If the leaders at your company weren’t speaking out about the topic, consider that maybe that:
1.They didn’t know what to say – Even the best managers find it hard to know what to say when tensions are high and people are hurting. If they find a ‘normal’ crisis difficult to talk about, they are scared stupid about a topic like #MeToo.
2. They fear saying the wrong thing – Men are nervous about weighing in for fear of hijacking the conversation or saying something insensitive, so saying nothing may seem less risky.
3. They didn’t have a leg to stand on – It is easy to denounce racism, but does your company have the same credibility with sexual-harassment issues? When women are reporting allegations and naming names, those with skeletons in their closets do not want to draw attention to themselves.
4. They want to protect the organization’s good name and good will – History is replete with military units, police departments, churches & schools who covered up harassment to protect the institution’s ‘good name’. What credibility does a company have when they won’t speak out against an injustice that’s occurring in their own workplace?
How can leaders gain credibility on #MeToo?
Here are four actionable practices to be authentic:
1. Tie your position back to your business – These issues have a moral, social and business cost. Put simply, you have a moral responsibility to protect the people in your organization and you have a business responsibility to turn a profit.Both are impossible if people are afraid or are being mistreated.
2. Select the platform that is most appropriate for your audience and ideally address the matter in person or at least video.
The CEO and senior leaders should sit in on every session … and stay the hell off your phones, pay attention and be interested. Your people will read your lack of attention as this is not important.
3. Be actionable – Demonstrate how your company plans to address the issue by pointing to the policies and steps that employees can take to report incidents of discrimination.
Emphasize your company’s core values or culture within your statement and act with integrity and authentically.
4. Be vulnerable – Know that you will make mistakes, but understand that taking a stance on difficult issues has become as necessary a leadership skill as much as financial acuity or HR.
Get educated, engage subject matter experts and remain humble about what you don’t know.
How companies can respond to the #MeToo movement
So, what can companies do
1. Acknowledge it and recognize your company is not immune – Talking about sexual violence is never easy, but acknowledging the problem is the first step. Acknowledge the #MeToo campaign and the need to fight misogyny and sexism in and outside of the workplace.
2. Take a stand. There’s no “gray-area” here, make sure your employees know where you stand. No one is immune so know the first step is acknowledging the problem is part of the very fabric of society and that we – the leaders – are all responsible.
3. Empower your managers – Are your managers equipped to support their teams? Do they know what resources employees can leverage? Are they creating a culture in which their team members feel safe reporting any concerns around harassment?
4. Download my white-paper titled: “How to Stop A Culture Of Harassment Dead In Its Tracks’ where I offer advice on how be create a culture of leadership in order to build a culture of safety.
The Article Continues Below
This white paper will walk you through the issues and fixes to make sure you provide the safest possible workplace for all of your people.
Success! Now check your email for your whitepaper.
5. Review your sexual harassment training and make it better. Most harassment training focuses on compliance – not changing the culture – that leads to people not knowing how to intervene.
6. Host internal discussions – Sexual violence is a nuanced issue to navigate and requires a thoughtful approach.
We are all complicit in the #MeToo story.
We are not all predators, but let’s be honest people of both sexes have learned to survive unsafe workplaces in silence, turned a blind eye or lived in wilful ignorance.
It’s not easy engaging on the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace, but no one ever said culture change is easy.
Instead silent complicity when you hear a #MeToo story insert the name of a woman you care for in place of the victim’s name.
Now, does it sounds right, fair or just.
Then decide on what you should/would do next.
That way when someone asks ‘How Did You Support #MeToo?’ you have decent, moral ethical response.
Start the conversation,
I drafted a sample company-wide email you can reference, change and make your own:
Subject Line: #MeToo and Our Company
**Warning: This email contains a non-graphic discussion of sexual violence**
I want to take a moment to acknowledge the public discussion surrounding sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
We have seen the public revelations connected with the #MeToo hashtag, and it breaks my heart to know some of my dearest friends and colleagues have not experienced sexual violence in places where they had every right to expect safety.
While we pride ourselves for having a great culture, our company is not immune, because we are all part of a much larger culture.
To solve the issue of workplace harassment we need to go beyond compliance, and aim for culture change. Building an inclusive culture is more than a slogan at (Insert company name), and I want to highlight actions we are taking as an organization as well as resources available to you:
- We are reviewing our sexual harassment training to ensure the content goes beyond legal compliance and addresses cultural change.
- We are revisiting our manager training to include inclusive leadership skills.
- We have a survivor-centered reporting procedure that prioritizes the safety and well-being of incident reporters.
- We encourage all employees to take advantage of the mental health services benefits.
- To encourage dialogue, we will be hosting general discussion groups and support groups facilitated by third-party expert facilitators.
- We have a resource sheet (attached) that lists external organizations you can check out for additional resources.
Let us be courageous about intervening toxic behaviours no matter how small, and being vulnerable in admitting mistakes and practising accountability.
Thank you to those of you who showed incredible courage in standing up for what’s right and sharing your #MeToo stories.
Our company stands by you and we will create positive change together.
Please contact me directly if you have any questions or feedback about how we can do better.
I’m always listening.
Credit to Medium.com
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